Removing emotion and keeping momentum in a decision-making capacity are two of the key things that kept former UN peacekeeper and retired Army Major Matina Jewell alive in a 2006 war in Lebanon.
Matina’s story and the lessons from it, which she penned in the book Caught in the Crossfire in 2011, are partly why she’s in such high demand as one of the country’s top keynote speakers.
Not surprisingly, many financial services firms are looking to her for some inspiration on leading through crisis situations, tackling change and building resilience in teams.
It comes at a time when many in the industry may actually feel somewhat under fire in the wake of damning findings aired during the Royal Banking Commission in relation to bad financial advice at the hands of a number of businesses.
I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Matina and asked if she has any tips for financial advisers given challenging industry conditions, advice scandals, increased education and professional requirements.
Keeping a lid on your emotional response and remaining focused during a disruptive change is challenging, but Matina says it’s a must do if you want to stay on track to achieving pressing goals.
“In the Military we were trained to somehow emotionally disassociate from what was happening around you. At times this might have been horrific situations, but as a leader you had to keep things together. In many ways I needed to get comfortable in what was a very uncomfortable situation unfolding around me and put my personal emotions aside so that I could remain in a decision making mindset. To save lives.
“For me my biggest fear as a leader was never being injured or killed on the battle field myself, but rather it was making a decision that could hurt or kill one of my soldiers.
“So that would make me even more focused, and it would help me to remove the emotion on a personal level and shift my mind set from something negative, to something that could be made into a positive.”
“The deaths of my teammates on the battlefield in the conflict between Israeli and Hezbollah fighters in 2006, was a very traumatic time for me. Made even more difficult in that none of my leaders ever thought to contact me about the deaths of my team mates. So all the information I received was via the media, through CNN news.”
“But some great learning can come from my experience here for all leaders in that during a crisis, communication is vital. Often in a crisis situation as a leader it is really important to communicate with your people. However we tend to get focused on the operational aspects, and of course operations is really important. But at the same time, we must take the time to communicate with our people and ensure we do this during the crisis.
“Sometimes when we stop making decisions in critical and time sensitive environments it becomes harder to make the next important decision as we’ve lost momentum in terms of a decision-making capacity.
“It is about breaking things down, keep making decisions, keep making incremental steps moving forward. Even if you make a wrong decision, its faster to get back on track by making another decision to course correct, than if you’ve become stagnant and immobilised and stopped making decisions its then harder to make that first decision to step forward.
“It’s really about having that mind set of making decisions, adapting to the environment around you and also having a positive attitude”.
“I found that some of the greatest opportunities in my life happened through change, challenge or even out of great adversity”.
“Even through situations, like what might be happening with the Royal Banking Commission, can lead to positive changes. Often we evolve and adapt and become more efficient in our organisation because we have been pushed to do so through change.
Focus on your purpose
“In a crisis, or when we feel like we have hit rock bottom, one of the things I’ve found during my recovery after the Lebanon War that can get you back into a more positive turn around is having a real sense of purpose.”
“My advice to leaders wanting to build resilience in their individuals, teams and entire organisations so that you can get through those tough, changing and challenging times is to focus on your overarching purpose. Because often it is your purpose that will combine and unite your people to get through difficult days, and if that purpose helps others it truly does have a double positive effect”.
Bianca Hartge-Hazelman writes on women’s money matters for Financy and is the founder of the Financy Women’s Index.
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